1. It’s the band’s biggest Vegas show to date. Its largest two gigs here took place at venues that held no more than 7,000 people—the former Aladdin Theater for the Performing Arts and the Hard Rock Hotel’s Theater Under the Stars parking lot setup—and the rest were hosted in theater-sized rooms. Which has meant locals lucky enough to score tickets got a more intimate show, but usually paid out the nose. On Saturday, the trio finally plays a Vegas venue that can accommodate all its local and visiting fans: 20,000-seat T-Mobile Arena.
2. The force of nature that is Dave Gahan. The lead singer’s live presence combines the thrusting swagger of Jim Morrison and the twirling gusto of the Tasmanian Devil. While most of his bandmates remain stationary behind keyboards and guitars, Gahan vamps over every inch of the stage while rarely cutting short his notes or running out of breath—hardly what you’d expect of a frontman who’s eligible for AARP and not named Mick Jagger. That he can shame rock singers half his age is one of many reasons he’s such an overlooked performer.
3. A more thematically substantial show? In March the band released 14th studio LP Spirit, its most politically charged work since 1983’s Construction Time Again, and recent setlists have featured some of its most thematic songs—“Where’s the Revolution,” “Going Backwards,” “Cover Me”—along with anti-capitalism 1983 chestnut “Everything Counts.” For those in the shut-up-and-sing camp, fret not. Gahan’s lyrics—and the tour’s onscreen imagery—maintain a vagueness that differs from the head-walloping polemics of, say, a Roger Waters concert.
4. Reworked classics. The tour has also seen Depeche Mode emboldened enough to mash Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s hip-hop anthem “The Message” with its own navelgazing synth-rocker “Barrel of a Gun.” But the band has always refreshed setlist mainstays, like “Everything Counts,” which swaps its stark, industrial intro for a thumping, crowd-stoking rave up. And then there’s beloved hit “Enjoy the Silence,” which gains a jam-like passage during its heavenly instrumental conclusion.
5. Its tribute to David Bowie. The world probably doesn’t need another Bowie cover. But Depeche Mode nonetheless takes its turn paying tribute to the Thin White Duke with its version of “Heroes,” which has been so well-received during the tour, the band recently released a video for it to mark the song’s 40th anniversary. Gahan, in particular, was gutted when Bowie—one of his primary influences—died last year, and you can hear that sentiment in his stirring, roof-raising vocal.
6. Opening act Warpaint. Depeche Mode has often brought numerous support acts to Vegas that might not have otherwise played here, including Primal Scream and Peter Bjorn and John. LA’s Warpaint is no stranger to Southern Nevada—the band has played multiple times at festivals and the Cosmopolitan—but we’re hardly complaining, especially after last year’s underrated Heads Up. If you find yourself trying to identify the inspiration for Warpaint’s ethereal aesthetic and synth-rock drive, look no further than the headliner itself.
Depeche Mode with Warpaint. September 30, 7:30 p.m., $40-$250. T-Mobile Arena, 702-692-1600.